Exploding TV: Numbnuts Broadcasting Company

NBC thinks it is entering the distributed world of media with its new National Broadband Company — but is riddled with cluelessness. The venture, first announced in April, was outlined today by Saul Hansell in The Times. Cluelessness and outmoded controlfreakishness includes:

* They will not allow us, the people, to put stuff on our blogs. They want control.

* They will not accept video from us the people. Not up to their standards.

* They take a shameful share of the revenue: 50 percent (30 percent goes to the video’s creator, 20 percent to the site running the video).

Clueless quotes from Randy Falco, president of the NBC Universal television group, in the Times story:

* “We want to create new tools to allow NBC Universal to do what it has always done: to deliver quality entertainment experiences to as broad an audience as possible,” Mr. Falco said. “In short, we are going back into the broadcast business on the Internet.”
No, you are not in the broadcast business. The internet is not about broadcast. It is not about you telling me what to watch. It is not about you making the selections for me. I have that power now. You just don’t know it.

* “If we really want to compete with big aggregators like Yahoo and Google, we need our video in as many places as possible,” Mr. Falco said.
No, if you wanted it as many places as possible you would follow the YouTube model and let us distribute it for you. But you don’t trust us. Odd not to trust the people who make you money.

* And my favorite: “When ‘Saturday Night Live’ had a great clip of Lazy Sunday, YouTube made a lot of money off it,” Randy Falco, the president of the NBC Universal television group, said at a news conference yesterday. “In the future, when we have a Lazy Sunday clip, NBBC will make a lot of money on it.”
No, fool, you made a lot of money from YouTube because your long-dead stinker of a show, SNL, got new audience because your public — the ones you don’t trust — put the video up and got it seen … until you foolishly made them cease and desist.

The Times says lots of companies are trying out NBC’s service because it’s nonexclusive (including About.com, where I consult, but where I was not involved in this). It’s a what-the-heck. But I’d sure as hell have a strategy for YouTube, Revver, Veoh, et al. If NBC had any brains, it would, too.

  • http://avc.blogs.com fred

    are you sure they won’t let you put their stuff on your blog jeff?

  • Mumblix Grumph

    * They take a shameful share of the revenue: 50 percent (30 percent goes to the video’s creator, 20 percent to the site running the video).

    What the hell…is the ghost of Colonel Tom Parker running this thing?

  • Paw

    Not sure the majority of your objections hold water here, Jeff. Let’s tackle them one by one:

    – Why should NBBC allow you to put video that you didn’t pay for on your blog for free? To use a later example of yours, it would work to increase the value of your blog to advertisers without compensating the provider.

    – they certainly have the right to accept or not accept what they please from whoever they please, just as you have the right to watch as many crappy home videos made with cell phones on Youtube as you please.

    – Who are you to tell NBBC what’s a shameful share of revenue to take? Do you know what their startup costs and overhead are? I’d venture to say that the content creators, who presumably don’t have another method of distribution THAT ALLOWS THEM TO GET PAID, would be happy to retain ownership of their product and collect fees as well.

    Your “we the people” point of view should be more correctly labeled “we the people who want something for nothing” point of view…

  • http://kalsey.com Adam Kalsey

    No, fool, you made a lot of money from YouTube because your long-dead stinker of a show, SNL, got new audience

    Best line I’ve read in weeks.

  • Old Grouch

    Jeff, the explanation is in the name: It’s “NBC Universal.” Universal is an old-time movie company that expanded into the recording business. Its mindset is that of the RIAA and the MPAA, and its business plan and management style encompass all the bad practices of both industries (how’s that for a two-for-one!). NBC is, of course, an old-time broadcasting company, standing clueless while its gatekeeping ability dissipates. The result, “NBC Universal,” is a combination of legacy media, merged together into one amorphous mass, desperately attempting to maintain its rent-collecting abilities while the world changes around it.

    Falco is a money guy (BBA-finance, MBA-finance) from the television end. Never expect anything revolutionary or creative from the accountants.

    The dinosaurs got bigger and bigger, and then they died.

  • http://argolon.com Conor O’Neill

    My favourite aspect of the launch is their fabulous global focus where they have picked a logo that reads as “On BBC” to anyone outside of the USA.

  • http://cellar.org/iotd.php Undertoad

    “Why should NBBC allow you to put video that you didn’t pay for on your blog for free?”

    “If we really want to compete with big aggregators like Yahoo and Google, we need our video in as many places as possible,” Mr. Falco said.

    He is right. They won’t compete with Google. They won’t even be a speed bump on Google’s driveway.

    although it might work with well-established high-traffic blogs.

    Making a statement like that is ludicrous and underlines how they don’t understand the long tail that the net has created.

    They don’t get it. They run CHANNELS. They think the Internet is CHANNELS. They aren’t aware of the long tail and how most traffic is NOT on “high-traffic” blogs. They don’t even understand that they are NOT THE ONES WHO DECIDE if their video is ever on “high-traffic” blogs. They don’t understand how no amount of money will change that.

    They think that they are the only people who can produce and distribute “Lazy Sunday” via the work of a million-dollar budget highly marketed TV show… even though the item was a low-budget production shot on digital video, and only got attention once distributed completely outside of their channels.

    “Who are you to tell NBBC what’s a shameful share of revenue to take? Do you know what their startup costs and overhead are?”

    Jeff doesn’t tell them what their overhead should be. The marketplace does. They are competing with Google and Google is building a massive infrastructure to give away the same thing for free.

    The ONLY thing they have to offer is “Lazy Sunday” and the only reason they have that is because of a distribution system they are fighting with every inch of their life.

    This is exactly like Time-Warner, deciding that the Internet is the new “channel” and immediately going out and buying AOL so they would have the biggest “channel” on the Internet.

    No plan dreamt up by any NYC suit is going to work until they acknowledge the very basic fact of the Internet: they are not in charge. We are.

  • Paw


    You (“We”) may very well be in charge when it comes to the Internet. But until “we” acknowledge that original content creation, beyond the typical home made skateboarder-crashing-into-a-trash-barrel video on Youtube, costs real money to make, “we” will get what we pay for…

    BTW, Google isn’t giving away anything for free. They make their money from advertising, which coincidentally is how the web sites associated with NBBC will also be making money.

    Final point – the way the service is described in the press, NBBC will acquire content not only from its own studio but also from NBC stations, independent producers and “we the people”, so I’m not sure why Jeff believes that avenue will not be open.

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  • chico haas

    I love the web because it is the modern boomtown.

  • http://cellar.org/iotd.php Undertoad

    Paw –

    “Lazy Sunday” WAS a skateboarder video. It was shot on a single cheap handheld digital video cam. It may have revived the franchise. What will revive the franchise next year?

    Remember what the first web pages looked like? Okay then.

  • http://www.OnDisruption.com Michael Urlocker

    Many companies are entering this space of video and TV on the web or by download. Apple, Google, Amazon, NBC, CNN, YouTube, etc.

    Can you pick the winner? Watch what customers are paying for:

    * 42 million iPods sold as of Jan. 2006
    * 850 million songs sold as of Jan. 2006
    * Average selling price has not fallen substantially

    Why did Sony, which created the Walkman, had the electronics expertise and owned record labels fail at this? Same reason Jeff Jarvis says NBC is trying to control the market: They have too much to loose.

    More at:


  • http://kempton.ideasRevolution.com Kempton

    Great stuff Jeff. Very insightful. Plus I finally know what NBC stands for.


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  • http://www.TasteTV.com Kevin at TasteTV

    We launched the Indie Food Channel in 2004, and we had to explain to people non-stop what a non-network television “channel” was. Now in 2006 we just relaunched under the new brand name of TasteTV (http://www.TasteTV.com) because everyone now knows what a “channel” is, maybe partially thanks to our efforts or maybe not, and they’re using it like the term “dot-com.” We also changed because it’s time to move on to the next step of evolution in this business…of course, we’re not sure if we should tell you what that is, look at what’s happened to “channels.”

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  • http://landersbcn.blogspot.com/ richard lander

    All well and good but what the heck is wrong with letting someone trained with years of experience make a value judgement about what is good or bad copy/video etc. apply this rule to other fields and you may as well let me go off and indulge in plumbing your house or doing surgery on your brain without any training…

  • http://www.beatcanvas.com Brett Rogers

    Of course they can make a value judgment, Rich. No one is stopping them. Just as no one stops bad plumbers from going into business. But then the market will decide whether that plumber merits a return visit.

    Jeff’s argument here is that NBC will not make money this way. They might for a while, but they’re missing the paradigm shift. NBC’s channel is no longer the most profitable means for distribution of the video. We are, and YouTube et al allow us to distribute. Slap an ad on there, let us distribute like crazy, and their ad’s impressions skyrocket if the video has quality and is buzzworthy.

    There are no channels, Rich. There are no masses. It’s all about the point of view that I choose for the moment and if I’m creating content, the best thing I could possibly do for myself is to opt for the widest, most exuberant distribution possible. Let the public decide what they want to watch. They will anyway no matter the years of experience of the editor/nanny.

  • Paw


    I must be losing it, but let’s say you, Brett Rogers, are the content creator. You’ve spent your time and presumably your money (however much or little) on making a video. You are proud of what you’ve done and want to showcase it to the world. You also want to be paid for your work.

    Assume that Youtube will provide the means of distribution but won’t pay you. Assume that none of the Youtube viewers watching your video will pay you either. I’ll also assume you have never worked in the advertising field, or else you would know how ludicrous the phrase “slap an ad on there” is, as if there is no effort involved in finding the advertiser and convincing them to pay you for the privilege of participating in your project. This would end up costing you even more time and money to accomplish.

    So now what do you have? A video that cost you both time and money, seen by millions (if you’re lucky) but which earns you nothing. Youtube, on the other hand, is making a fortune off the increased traffic to their site, which they can use to convince THEIR advertisers to pay more for. Are you expecting that your labor of love will be seen by someone with a Hollywood connection, who will offer you a lucrative deal to develop more wonderful videos? Get real – the people that this happens to are so few and far between we know who they are (Lonelygirl15). Are you expecting to be able to charge viewers a la carte for the privilege of seeing your work? Good luck with that in our current “something for nothing” mindset.

    The LAZY SUNDAY video that Undertoad references several times was made by employees of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, who are employees of NBC and GET PAID for doing that work.

    Given these circumstances, why is it so awful that NBBC wants to provide video to web sites and seek compensation for its creators, while taking a fee for their work?

  • http://www.ace-training.net Shinderpal Jandu
  • http://landersbcn.blogspot.com/ richard lander

    Paw. Great rebuttal against Brett. And Brett. It’s Richard, not Rich. If it was Rich, I would have said Rich. Sorry, us limeys are kind of keen on this sort of thing


  • http://www.beatcanvas.com Brett Rogers

    Sorry Richard. Didn’t mean any disrespect.

    Paw, can you say “ad?” I don’t pay anything to watch Saturday Night Live. The advertisers pay my way so that they can get in front of my face.

    Notice that I said, “Slap an ad on there.” The advertiser pays the creator. The more the distribution, the greater the impressions and the great the worth of the ad and the more the creator can charge.

    Gosh, that sounds a lot like how TV has run for, well, decades. The bigger the audience, the more pricey the ad. Noodle that through a bit…

  • http://unbeknownst.net Kirk

    Undertoad said “They don’t get it. They run CHANNELS. They think the Internet is CHANNELS.”

    NBC: “We know the internet isn’t channels, you see, it’s a vast series of tubes..” Not really a quote but you get the idea.

    To be fair Youtube has channels but not in the broadcast sense. They can have a CSI “channel” for instance.

  • Paw

    Did you even read the response, Brett? Of course you don’t pay anything to watch SNL (other than a cable or satellite provider fee). That’s because NBC has an entire team of people dedicated to filling the empty commercial breaks. Ads don’t just magically appear in those breaks – a network sales team has to seek out the potential client, haggle with that client over the spot price, make sure the spot runs correctly in the program and make sure the advertiser pays for the rating points the program delivers.

    The program creators do not do this work. This is a full time job for hundreds of people in the TV business. That’s precisely the service that NBBC offers its content creator partners – to create a distribution and sales system that allows them to be compensated for their efforts so they can concentrate on being creative.

    If you think any advertiser worth its salt will invest its advertising funds (what you dismiss as simply “slapping an ad”) with an unknown content creator with no experience and no infrastructure, then you can send me whatever you’re smoking…

  • http://corpblawg.ynada.com/ Cornelius Puschmann

    I’d just like stop by and say that of the numerous blogs I read, yours is probably the best. As usual, your assessment here is dead-on and it makes me wonder where we could be in regards to social media if some people weren’t clinging so desperately to their outdated business models.

    Oh yeah – the part about YouTube making money off SNL is idiocy in its purest possible form. I can’t wait to see what the dinosaurs do when they finally realize that they’re trying to market fire as a novelty in the nuclear age.

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  • http://cellar.org/iotd.php Undertoad

    Paw –

    The LAZY SUNDAY video that Undertoad references several times was made by employees of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, who are employees of NBC and GET PAID for doing that work.

    Um guess what.

    It was made by a group of filmmakers called The Lonely Island.

    It was selected by NBC employees.

    They select well, but so do digg’ers.

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  • Paw

    Um sorry, Toad, Samberg and Parnell are SNL cast members.
    Parnell wrote it. It was created specifically for SNL Digital Shorts, not selected at random or on spec. Nothing digg-like about it.

  • Nate

    Has anyone seen any info on whether SNL’s ratings went up in the second half of the season? I seem to recall Lazy Sunday being released last November or December.

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  • James Myles Smith

    I’m looking to start my own radio station & I have a really good idea . I just don’t want to get ripped by the powers that be . If you would like to here more . please get back to me . I’m not trying to rip anyone I just don’t want to get ripped myself . thank you for your time & hope to hear from some one soon .